With Google, It’s Personal

Google sneaked another search enhancement out of the Google Lab, this time to give users more of what they want by paying attention to what they wanted before.

When a query is entered with the Personalized Search feature, the technology matches possible results against the kinds of results the user has clicked on in the past.

Someone who preferred links to academic journals, for example, would eventually start to see such journals rising to the top of the listings. The search feature also could distinguish whether someone who typed “bass” was interested in fishing or music.

“We can improve the quality of search results by looking at your past searches and clicks and attempting to present results that take these things into account,” said Marissa Mayer, Google’s director of consumer products.

To get the personalized results, users must be signed in to a Google account, such as a gmail account or a personalized homepage. Google unveiled the Personalized Homepage in March. It lets users customize a start page with search, adding such things as news, movies or weather.

The feature replaces My Search History, a service launched in April that let users see how many times they had accessed a particular Web page and the last time it was viewed.

While many users immediately see a drastic improvement in search results, Mayer said, “it does build over time.” She characterized the service as an early beta.

When asked whether personalized search would also be used to personalize ads, Mayer said firmly, “Possibly. But that isn’t the application for today.”

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